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Unwarranted BAC tests get mixed Supreme Court reaction

As we've written about before in this blog, Tennessee has a new law in force that allows police to collect blood samples of those suspected of driving under the influence. The "no-refusal" law, however, stipulates that the blood draw can only occur if a driver refuses a request for a test and once the officer has obtained a warrant from a judge.

This mode of operation is one that elicits a lot of reaction from a lot of different quarters. On one side are those who seek to defend individual civil liberties against undue incursion by government. They support the notion of requiring a warrant before any blood alcohol content test is done, especially if it involves poking a person with a needle.

On the other side are those with legitimate concerns about the prevalence of drunk drivers on the road who pose a threat to everyone's safety. They argue that requiring police to get a warrant before conducting a BAC test by blood draw stifles legitimate enforcement efforts. Warrants mean delays and delay can allow alcohol to be processed out of the body.

The argument over this issue has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices heard arguments this week and reports on the hearing suggest the court may be loath to give warrantless blood alcohol testing the thumbs up.

The case presented to the high court comes from Missouri. In it, a man refused to submit to a blood test. There apparently was plenty of evidence to indicate that the man was drunk and that a warrant for a blood test could be obtained, but the arresting officer didn't get one. Rather, he took the man to a hospital and had a technician draw blood. The man was handcuffed throughout the ordeal.

The test proved that the man's BAC was over the legal limit, but the courts threw out the evidence, saying it violated the man's protection against illegal search and seizure.

When it comes to facing charges of DUI there is a school that holds no blood should be given unless it is in donation to the Red Cross. Processes followed in collecting evidence are critical. If they are not followed, there is room for challenge. It's every person's right to present those challenges.

Source: WKRN-TV, "Court wary of warrantless blood tests in DUI cases," Mark Sherman, Associated Press, Jan. 9, 2013

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